Monday is a big step in the right direction in the fight against COVID-19. Over one million people will be eligible for the vaccine as Alabama starts Phase 1B of its vaccination plan.
On Monday morning, eight mass vaccination sites will open up in Alabama - one of them right here in Huntsville. John Hunt Park, which has already been vaccinating about a thousand people a day, will soon double that to two thousand. But, officials say that takes lots of planning.
For people like Tia Dryer, a COVID-19 vaccination isn't a preference, it's a necessity. She and three friends traveled five hours up I-65 from Mobile to get their vaccines at John Hunt Park Sunday night. The vaccine clinic is one of eight in Alabama that will ramp up distribution of the long-awaited vaccine.
"I am a breast cancer survivor. And I thought that I needed this shot," said Dryer.
Clinics in Anniston, Birmingham, Dothan, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Selma and Tuscaloosa will all expand to increase the number of vaccines they can administer. Here in Huntsville, the clinic at John Hunt Park will nearly double the amount of nursing stations inside that administer the vaccine from around ten to seventeen. This will double their daily vaccine output from one thousand to two thousand. Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers says this equates to about three shots given every minute - at John Hunt Park alone. But, numbers of that magnitude don't come without obstacles.
"The game changer would be to get one-dose vaccines that don't require the significant refrigeration or is as difficult to administer as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines," Spillers said.
Huntsville Hospital is currently administering the Pfizer vaccine. Dryer says it doesn't matter what company made the vaccine - she wants it.
"I worked in a hospital - Spring Hill Memorial Hospital in Mobile, Alabama - for 25 years. So, I know how important this is and with my health problems, I feel comfortable. And - excited," said Dryer.
Because vaccine supply remains so low, officials keep reminding people - make sure you have an appointment to get the vaccine. Even though 1B starts tomorrow, there are some places - like the Morgan County Health Department - still working on finishing group 1A. Earlier this week, an ADPH administrator there said she expects that alone to take to the end of this month.